Submitting an application for VA pension benefits can be overwhelming for most. There is a considerable amount of information that you have to provide to VA, but being as thorough as possible is to your benefit. The VA will usually try to find any reason at all to reject your application or request more information before your application is approved.
Below we’ll cover our 10 best tips for submitting a VA application for pension benefits. Recall that this benefit is different from Disability Indemnity Compensation (DIC), which we’ll cover in another blog. We also have a document that provides a cheat sheet with all the eligibility requirements for VA Aid & Attendance, also know as VA pension. If you’d like a copy of that, just send us an email to [email protected] and we’ll be glad to send it to you.
#1 Submit the VA application on the correct form
We can’t stress this enough. If you submit a VA application on an incorrect form or a form that is outdated, the VA will certainly return it. We’ve even seen cases where the VA has even sent outdated forms for the resubmission of an application. So they are prone to making mistakes as well, and that’s why you always need to double check to make sure you’re using the right forms.
#2 Submit all income and asset information
Don’t try to hide any income or asset information from the VA. They already know what assets you have and the income you are generating. If you try to hide assets or income from them, it will result in the rejection of your VA application. You want to make sure and submit your Social Security benefits statement, any 1099s you may have received for interest or dividends on investments, any kind of retirement benefits, etc. The VA now talks with the IRS about the income that was reported to them. So the information on your VA application needs to agree with the information on your tax return, otherwise they’ll reject and return your application.
Here’s an example of how exact you have to be when reporting income or asset information to the VA. Last year we used a 2021 Social Security benefits statement for a client when submitting their VA application. After obtaining that statement, Social Security made an adjustment to their benefits. As a result of that adjustment, we were missing $0.60 on the VA application — 60 cents! The VA kicked back the application and wanted to know why that 60 cents wasn’t on there. So be sure to submit all asset and income information to the exact penny.
#3 Submit any kind of mortgage balances
If you have a mortgage or even a reverse mortgage, you need to submit those balances on your VA application. We had a client recently who had submitted all their application paperwork, but didn’t tell us about a mortgage they had. Their application was declined because their assets were too high. Thankfully, we were able to go back and adjust for the mortgage and get their application approved. But it’s much easier to account for that mortgage initially as opposed to adjusting the application later.
#4 Submit the last 12 months of your bank statements
The standard practice is to submit two months of past bank statements on a VA application. But we like to see 12 months of past bank statements so that we can ensure that there’s no income or assets missing on the application. We will comb through those bank statements to see if there’s anything on there that we can use to your benefit on the application. Depending on the time it takes to compile the complete VA application, we may ask for additional bank statements to ensure we have everything covered.
#5 Submit all of your medical expenses
If you’ve had payments to your hospital or doctor for copays, you need to include that on the VA application. This would include any unreimbursed medical expenses that you’ve had to pay “out-of-pocket” to healthcare providers. Those unreimbursed medical expenses help to reduce the total and income and assets that are considered by the VA for benefits eligibility.
#6 Fund your caretaker agreement (if applicable)
If your income exceeds the amount allowed by the VA, we will typically recommend a “caretaker agreement.” That agreement takes some time to implement — usually around two months. If we do suggest implementing a caretaker agreement, make sure you fund it. We’re going to show you what to do, but it’s your responsibility to fund it. Once we submit your VA application, we have to show proof that the caretaker agreement has been funded. So we’re going to need any canceled checks, invoices — anything like that so that we can justify that expense.
#7 Sign and date each form
If we submit your VA application, we’ll go through the application with a fine-toothed comb to make sure all pages are signed and dated properly. But if your’e submitting the application on your own, you need to do that. If you miss a date or a signature, the VA is going to send the application back to you. It’s also important to make sure that your signature is legible.
#8 Attach any discharge papers, marriage certificates, death certificates and divorce information
When we do a VA application for a client, we include a package that we call a “fully-developed claim.” This package includes a number of documents like military discharge records, marriage records, divorce records, death records, etc. The fully-developed claim basically needs to include any important documents that may pertain to the Veteran that is seeking VA benefits. We want all those documents in one place and attached to the VA application prior to mailing it.
#9 Send the application with tracking information
Believe it or not, the VA has been known to lose applications. In the past, they have also been known to trash entire bins of mail that they haven’t been able to open or process. The VA is currently much better at keeping track of applications that they receive, but it’s still important to track your application. That will give you proof that it was received by them if they contend that they didn’t receive it.
#10 Respond in a timely fashion if the VA is asking for additional information
If the VA requests additional information regarding your application, reply to them in a timely fashion and prior to their deadline. If you have to mail them additional information as a part of your reply, be sure to get tracking information on that piece of mail. Some clients will send packages via certified mail while others will just use regular priority mail with a tracking number. Either way is fine as long as you can track the package.
We Can Help with Your VA Application
The VA application process seems very complicated and it can be. But we are here to help. This is what we do. We help people and we’ll be excited to help you, your spouse, or your parents if they are an eligible wartime Veteran or the spouse of an eligible wartime Veteran. We’ll help you navigate the maze of VA benefits and help your family get a win with the VA.
If we can help you, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (229) 226-8183 or email us at [email protected]. You can also COMPLETE THIS FORM and we’ll contact you to schedule an appointment. If you’d like to see this blog in video format, you can watch it below. Please be sure to SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel and click the bell notification button so that you’re notified each time we publish a new video.